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FULL ARTICLE | EDITORIAL 
Hot air or reality – Are VW’s electric car goals realistic? 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 01st December 2017 19:34:07 GMT
 

VW ID Volkswagen Design December 2017

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No doubt about it, Germany’s Volkswagen Group, infamous for its leading part in the market-changing dieselgate scandal, remains in the dog house. The company can be accused of many shortcomings. A prevailing culture of arrogance is just one. But as a smooth-running high-tech vehicle production machine Volkswagen takes some beating. In that respect at least it stands right at the very top with some of the autoindustry’s best. But then again, it surely has had enough practice. 

Eventual specification finalised and signed-off, followed by the green light for mass production, Volkswagen’s state-of-the-art ‘roboplants’ will spring into action. 

As per schedule, the number of vehicles needed by the sales organisations will pour off line, likely meeting all the earlier set quality parameters. 

That’s the good news. On the much-debated issue of future vehicle mobility, and today’s consensus view of a looming wholesale switch to electric vehicles from say 2025 onwards, to date Volkswagen, by any measure, has taken a media pasting.

Not for the first time, it stands accused of twiddling its thumbs on some vehicle technologies. 

An earlier example of the severe flak heading its way: “Volkswagen understands diesels, but where are its competitive hybrids?” 

As it turns out, apart from Japan, underlying demand for Prius type hybrids in the US and Europe has been underwhelming at best. 

Compare a continuing tide of negative Volkswagen press coverage with Tesla. 

No surprise then that Tesla’s Elon Musk, coming from nowhere, has set the established automotive world on fire. 

He developed, built and sold a cutting-edge battery powered electric car that some of the world’s well-heeled first time adopters were willing to pay Mercedes S-Class type money to own. 

For most hard-nosed analysts Elon Musk can’t do wrong 

In contrast to tarred and feathered senior Volkswagen executives, for getting this astonishing Tesla show on the road, in the quality media and for most hard-nosed analysts Elon Musk can’t do wrong. 

Despite some fun poked his way on occasions, and in spite of Tesla’s black-hole image on the financial side, he still stands out as a true visionary and the autoindustry’s new messiah. 

Deserved? 

Yes!

Yesterday, in keeping with the opening of the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, Volkswagen said it will shape the electric mobility of the future. 

VW’s Jürgen Stäckmann said “we make high quality electric mobility accessible to everyone". 

Moreover, “by 2025 the Volkswagen brand plans to sell one million electric vehicles per year and is aiming to be the market leader in electric mobility” the company said. 

So what are we to make of Volkswagen’s plans to become one of the world’s leading electric car manufacturers? 

Not for the first time, being first doesn’t always pay off. 

Elon Musk’s admirable strength lies in imagining future profitable demand that does not yet exist. 

But no surprise to autoindustry insiders: for a comparative novice to build say 5,000 all-new high-tech models a week as early as this year is now widely seen as pie-in–the-sky. 

That’s chiefly because of the complexity of this all-new technology. 

The same goes for the supply industry. 

Compare that with Volkswagen. 

Being second in this all-new world of electric cars can be a distinct advantage.

 So, in say a couple of years from now, given its dedicated new electric car architecture platform – its I.D. family – could Volkswagen eventually build say 5,000, 10,000 or even 20,000 electric cars a week? 

To paraphrase former US president Obama, “Oh yes they can”! 

But whether this can be done profitably still remains an altogether different question. 

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